Shojin cuisine - 精進料理
I love kaiseki cuisine (懐石料理) and in particular cha-kaiseki (茶懐石). I've learned it for a year and it helped me a lot understand Japanese cuisine and cooking, it also helped me to train my palate. But what I really troubles with kaiseki because it includes quite a lot of raw fish, shellfish, fish eggs etc... And so it is when you go to kaiseki restautants. In particular it is always a fixed seasonal menu, and it kind of doesn't really make sense to go to a high end kaiseki restaurant and pass on the half of the courses, or ask for a special menu. But hopefully there is Shojin cuisine! You may think of Shojin cuisine as the rustic vegetarian they serve at Mount Koya, but actually there are several places where it is treated as kaiseki and this is just awesome. I know I can eat everything without worrying and it shows the potential of vegetarian or vegan cooking to be super high cuisine. Shojin cuisine is related to Zen Budhism and is meat-fish free, while being very ingenious in using gluten, soya beans etc.., it is also a seasonal food, so somehow the precursor of Japanese macrobiotic eating in its original meaning. I've planning to learn Shojin cuisine for a few years but my lab kept me to busy. I'm hoping that I can start this spring.
In the meantime while we were looking for a place to celebrate our anniversary I suggested we could try a kaiseki Shojin cuisine restaurant that I randomly found while looking for vegan places in Tokyo. So we booked at Daigo (http://www.atago-daigo.jp), near Atago shrine in Tokyo. The place has something a bit magical, since it is a little Japanese heaven in a high rise with the service expected from any high standard ryotei. The food was amazing as expected (and as usual I won't show you badly taken pictures of this deliciously and beautifully designed food, you'd rather try yourself) and once back home we realized it is actually a 2-star Michelin restaurant. I can only but recommend the experience when visiting Tokyo!
The most impressive dish from our menu is hard to choose but I was impressed by the bamboo shoots with kinome dressing (or for the fashionable word "pesto"), which take both ingredient to perfection. Something I will definitely try my way very soon!!!